The final season of Mad Men premeired last night, which means it's time to start salivating. While some of us will froth at the mouth over Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) and others will drool over Joan Harris (played by Christina Hendricks), all of us will slobber over the slew of classic cocktails featured on the show.
Most Miami watering holes serve drinks that represent either the frat-party pathos of National Lampoon's Animal House or the self-indulgent pomposity of Gus Van Sant's Last Days. The former variety consists of frozen, alcohol-laden concoctions served in giant plastic cups, and the latter are presented as pretentious, overly creative cocktails that hipsters pretend to enjoy while silently yearning for some craft beer.
If you prefer the cool and classic style of a salty dog, side car, mint julep, or Singapore sling, you're in luck. Angelo Viera, known for his work at the Florida Room at the Delano and the Sunset Lounge at the Mondrian in Miami, as well as Bungalow 8 and Light Bar in London, was hired to design the cocktail menu at Mo Bar, the upscale lounge at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. The bar offers all the aforementioned cocktails and then some, each served in unique glassware and made with top quality ingredients, freshly-pressed juices, and hand-carved ice.
During his time in Europe, Viera was recognized as one of the best bar managers in the United Kingdom, and when you sip on one of the stylish cocktails offered at Mo Bar it's easy to understand why.
Viera took the time to answer a few questions for us and was generous enough to provide us with two cocktail recipes. The Knickerbocker à la Monsieur ($16) appeals to those enjoy slightly sweet drinks; the Aviation ($16) is preferable to those who enjoy sours.
Short Order: How did you get into mixology in the first place?
Angelo Viera: I grew-up in the restaurant industry, but it wasn't until I lived in London where I took to the bar. At that time, in early 2000, fresh fruit cocktails were the rage in the city. I started to work in a very high-end hotel bar where we had an 80 strong cocktail list with a huge array of ingredients; it was almost like a kitchen. I immediately fell in love with the endless possibilities of creating drinks.
With drinks like the gimlet ($14) and sazerac ($15), the cocktail menu at MO Bar gives off a total Mad Men vibe. When you were approached to design the menu, what was your inspiration?
There is a reason why classic cocktails are classic and never go out of style. I wanted to bring an offering that was timeless and with choices for everyone. I see Mandarin Oriental as elegant and timeless, it was only fitting to enhance it with a sophisticated world-class bar and menu.
What would you say are the three most important factors when preparing a drink?
One, ice. Realize that 20-30% of the drink is ice or dilution from ice. Solid clear hard cubes are best. Two, measure. Every single ingredient must be in the right proportion according to the recipe. The key is about balance and it's very hard to get balance without measuring. Three, ingredients. The better, fresher the ingredients the better you final product will be.
What is the biggest mistake people make when preparing a drink?
They don't measure! And they opt out for inferior ingredients, like pre-packaged lemon juice; this is a big no-no. Always fresh squeezed -- always.
Whose idea was it to use different glassware for the different cocktails? And why?
Human beings are very visual, we love to look at pretty, interesting things. A chef will prepare a dish and make it look like a work of art. Same thing applies to cocktails, works of art. The glassware is the frame and portrays the piece. I wanted all the drinks to be very visually appealing so it meant sourcing unique vessels.
What are your favorite things about Mo Bar?
It's the whole package. It's a fancy spot with fancy cocktails. It has a beautiful view and setting. It's the perfect place to enjoy a well crafted drink. Thursday night is amazing. We have an extremely talented three-piece Cuban band that is so classy. I can never get enough.
What do you drink at home? When you go out?
I'm a Manhattan man; that's my drink. I adore whiskey; American [whiskey] and scotch are my two favorites.
What's sets the drinks at MO Bar apart from say, a club in South Beach?
I've been to a couple of clubs in South Beach and drinks are usually in a plastic cup. There's just no comparison.
Knickerbocker à la Monsieur
- 2 oz rum
- ¾ oz fresh lemon juice juice
- ½ oz fresh raspberry puree
- ¾ oz orange curacao
- ½ oz simple syrup
Shake with cubed ice, strain over crushed ice into a double old fashioned glass and garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
- 2 oz gin
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- ¾ oz marashino liqueur
- 3 dashes crème de violet
Shake with ice cubes, then fine strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with lemon peel and zest.
Mo Bar offers live music three days a week from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., including a Cuban three-piece band on Thursdays; Argentinian guitarists, The Fox Brothers on Fridays; and a changing line up on Saturdays. The bar is expecting to launch its Unplugged Music Series in a few weeks.
Follow Ily on Twitter @realily.